Bailouts for nothing and get out of jail free. A new report [PDF] by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) calculates that the Wall Street bonus pool – the money given on top of an average salary of $404,000 – doubles the combined annual earnings of all full-time minimum wage workers in America.
The figure comes from data compiled by the New York State Comptroller’s office for 2015, which shows that Wall Street handed out around $25 billion in bonuses to its 172,400 New York-based employees. All American full time minimum wage workers, numbering 895,000, only made a combined $12 billion that year according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Of course, not many minimum wage workers qualify as full time, meaning their combined yearly income is even lower than the Wall Street bonus pool.
The IPS study also provides some interesting information on how redistributing just Wall Street’s bonus pool could lift whole segments of the low-wage worker population out of dire precarity. There is enough money in the bonus pool to raise pay to a living wage of $15 an hour for either all of the country’s 2.6 million restaurant servers and bartenders, all 1.6 million home health and personal care aides, or all 2.6 million fast food preparation and serving workers.
But hey, the banksters earned that money, right? We need Wall Street, it’s essential to our economy and even low-wage workers would be worse off if we heavily taxed the financial services industry, right?
No. In fact, the usefulness of Wall Street is an open question. Even many of the elite are asking “What good is Wall Street?” Nobel-prize winning economist and former Chief Economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz even went so far as to claim most of what Wall Street does could be characterized as rent seeking or parasitic.
In other words, Wall Street siphons all this money for high salaries and bonuses from the real economy while creating no value for society. US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall once wrote “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” All the more reason to tax Wall Street and free ourselves of these chiselers.